Chandigarh: After weeks of standoff and loss of six lives, self-styled ‘godman’ Sant Rampal was finally arrested in his fortress-like ashram in the Hisar district of Haryana after the police raided the premises on Wednesday.
In a well-orchestrated strategy, the police stormed the 12-acre ashram around 9 pm on Wednesday after evacuating a majority of the followers who had been camping inside. Rampal was taken into custody in less than 20 minutes after launching the raid.
Rampal will be produced before a local court in Rohtak on Thursday and the Punjab and Haryana High Court on Friday.
Jubilant scenes were witnessed outside the ashram as several people danced and praised the police for arresting the ‘godman’. The arrest is said to have been an outcome of negotiations to ensure that the standoff ended at the earliest. Many of his followers who were stranded inside chose to leave the premises.
Earlier, silence descended on the ashram premises as close to 11,000 followers, some who were forced to camp inside to defend Rampal, walked away from the mayhem.
Police suspected that around 5,000 followers were camped inside the ashram, with several of them refusing to vacate premises, thereby delaying Rampal’s arrest.
Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar finally broke his silence on Wednesday saying that the High Court order would be upheld and the operation would end with Rampal’s arrest.
At 8:30 am, ashram volunteers handed over bodies of five women and an infant to the district administration. There were no injury marks on the women’s bodies and the cause of death remains to be ascertained through post-mortem, said Director-General of Police S N Vashist. Among them, was a 20-year-old woman, suffering from a heart ailment, who died at hospital in Hisar in the early hours of Wednesday. The infant who died was suffering from congenital jaundice.
Meanwhile, the police on Wednesday booked Rampal on fresh charges of sedition. Besides charges of murder and contempt of court, he now faces charges for waging war against the state, conspiring to commit offences against the state and collecting arms with the intention of waging war against the state.
The police did not enter the ashram on Wednesday maintaining that its first priority was to evacuate those inside. Rampal’s brother, Purshottam Dass, who challenged the police to arrest the ‘godman’, was nabbed while trying to escape. At least 270 people from the ashram have been detained and 70 booked, sources said.